The 1980s was the period when Viallat achieved prominence: he moved on from his beginnings as a founder of the Supports/Surfaces movement, developing an original artistic style that saw his works shown at the Centre Pompidou in 1982 and the French Pavilion during the 1988 Venice Biennale. Without ever wavering from the precepts he established during the 1970s—freedom from the constraints of composition and representation, desacralizing the canvas now freed from its stretcher—Viallat developed a fuller practice that saw him experiment more deeply with colour and texture.
An admirer of Venetian painting, of Matisse and Pollock, he layers paint thickly onto banners, curtains, fragments of tents and parasols. ‘I left Supports/Surfaces behind and have become more about Painting/Painting,’ is how Viallat describes it. After the experiments and fluidity of the 1970s, he says that he now has an emancipated relationship to the notion of the support.
‘Viallat has rightly been praised for the continuity of his approach, his fidelity to the principles established at the outset. But we must also salute his determination to break his self-imposed rules, often exploring the outer boundaries of juxtapositions of colour and associations of fabrics,’ says Alfred Pacquement, writing in the exhibition catalogue.
He works from that same, always identical abstract form he has been repeating for fifty years, in a ceaseless process where the support plays a determining role, ‘yet every painting is unique’.
Today, Claude Viallat is an artist who cannot be ignored. His approach is all the more current in the light of the emergence of a new movement in American art that is examining his heritage (low-status materials, repetitions, the error as operating principle, exploring new surfaces) as well as the renewed interest in vernacular and artisanal practices evident in international contemporary art.
His works are featured in numerous public collections, including at the Musée National d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Mnam - Centre Pompidou and Moma in New York. The Musée Fabre in Montpellier held a major retrospective of his work in the summer of 2014.
A catalogue will be published to coincide with the exhibition, including an interview with Alfred Pacquement, who also wrote the preface.